Lead generation vs. sales prospecting: Key differences, examples and strategies

They’re not the same. But you’re not wrong for thinking that the goals of lead generation and sales prospecting sound similar.

While both strategies aim to generate new customers, lead generation focuses on generating large volumes of leads, while sales prospecting focuses on targeting and converting specific, high-quality prospects.

Easy to understand, right? Maybe. But you’re also not wrong if you think you’d benefit from a deeper understanding of how lead generation and sales prospecting work and what makes them different.

In this blog post, we’ll look at some key differences between lead generation and sales prospecting, including examples to help illustrate these concepts. We’ll also discuss how exegraphic data can help integrate the two processes, allowing you to focus more time and energy on developing high-quality leads and closing more deals.

Let’s get started!


Leads vs. prospects

Before diving into the intricacies of lead generation and sales prospecting, it’s important to first understand the difference between leads and prospects.

Leads are individuals that have shown some interest in your product or service. They may have visited your website, signed up for an email newsletter or engaged with your company on social media.

In contrast, prospects are individuals who have been identified as potential customers and are actively being pursued by your sales team. They may be entirely new to your business and still trying to understand what you offer.

Of course, both leads and prospects are essential to the success of your business. So, you’ll want to ensure your company has a strategy that effectively targets both and engages them in meaningful ways.

How do you do that? We’ll help you begin brainstorming some ideas by looking individually at the definitions of sales prospecting and lead generation, as well as examples of how you can apply them in your B2B marketing and sales processes.


What is sales prospecting?

Sales prospecting is a short-term strategy focused on finding, qualifying and closing deals with prospects in a specific market segment. Sales prospecting is typically performed by sales teams who use various techniques such as cold calling, cold emailing or social media outreach on platforms like LinkedIn.

Sales prospecting can be particularly challenging, as it involves navigating complex buying processes and competing with other vendors for the attention of busy decision makers. However, there are several strategies that sales professionals can use to make their prospecting more effective.


B2B sales prospecting examples and strategies 

At its best, prospecting is a powerful way to build your pipeline and generate revenue from new customers. However, it can also be time consuming. According to a Crunchbase report, the best sales reps spend around 6 hours a week researching their prospects. But, if you’re doing it incorrectly, it can be an inefficient process.

For example, many sales reps rely on lead lists purchased from outsourced lead generation services as a starting point for prospecting. But since a lead generation service may not accurately understand your ideal customer, these leads may not actually be interested in purchasing your products or services.

Fortunately, there are now many innovative tools and techniques that can help you prospect more effectively. One strategy is to leverage exegraphic data on your best customers to update your ideal customer profile (ICP) and identify the most promising market segments.

For example, let’s say you sell a solution that helps IT companies manage their software licenses. To improve prospecting, you could look at exegraphic data and discover that you have the most success converting IT companies that have recently merged with another company.

With that information, your sales reps can focus their outreach efforts on the prospects that best fit this characteristic, personalize their messaging to speak to specific pain points and improve the likelihood that they can convert those prospects into customers.

Learn more about how to succeed with sales prospecting:

What is lead generation?

Lead generation is the process of finding new leads that match your target market, building brand awareness, and nurturing leads to influence their interest in your products or services. 

Marketing teams are typically responsible for this process, as lead generation activities involve various digital marketing strategies such as email marketing, social media advertising, content marketing and more. For 91% of marketers surveyed by Ruler Analytics, lead generation is their most important goal. 

But lead generation is not just about finding new leads—it’s also about qualifying those leads and ensuring they are who you want to focus your sales efforts on. For example, some lead generation strategies may attract many unqualified leads, such as unsolicited email blasts. But these leads may require a lot of time and energy to sift through and qualify and, ultimately, may not be worth the effort.


B2B lead generation examples and strategies

To avoid wasting your time on unqualified leads, you need to have a strategy for determining the characteristics that make a lead worth pursuing. Again, this is where exegraphic data comes in handy.

Let’s go back to our example of selling a solution that helps IT companies manage software licenses. Since you’ve already used exegraphic data to determine that your best customers tend to be those that have recently merged with another company, you’re already on the right track to creating an effective lead generation strategy.

Your next step would be to brainstorm and create content that would generate interest from IT companies in this scenario. For example, you might create:

  • A whitepaper with tips and best practices for successfully integrating two separate IT systems. This could include real-world examples of how other companies in similar situations have successfully merged their IT systems and recommendations for avoiding common pitfalls.
  • A webinar that walks IT professionals through the process of planning and executing a successful IT merger. This could include an overview of common challenges, sample timelines and budgets, and tips for successfully communicating with stakeholders throughout the process.
  • A blog post that offers tips for managing software licenses and IT contracts during company mergers, including recommendations for creating systems to track and monitor expiring licenses, negotiating renewal terms with vendors, and understanding the importance of data security and compliance.

In exchange for the value provided in that content, you can request contact information, which you can then use to start building a lead database to nurture with marketing materials.

As you can see, lead generation is a long-term strategy that requires consistent effort over time. However, as you identify and nurture more leads, your lead database will grow, which helps to fuel sales prospecting efforts.

Learn more about how to succeed with lead generation:

Lead generation vs. sales prospecting: 5 key differences 

Now that you have a better idea of how sales prospecting and lead generation work individually, let’s look at some key differences between these two strategies.

  1. Lead generation is focused on generating new leads to be nurtured over time. In contrast, sales prospecting focuses on identifying potential customers who are already interested or show signs of potentially being interested in your product or service.


  1. Lead generation focuses on generating large quantities of leads that can be converted into prospects. In contrast, sales prospecting aims to identify specific, high-quality leads that are likely to convert into customers.


  1. Lead generation is a long-term strategy for building a quality base of potential customers to drive sales. In contrast, sales prospecting is a short-term strategy for finding, qualifying and converting the prospects who are most likely to buy your solution.


  1. Lead generation involves using a variety of tactics, such as social media ads, content marketing and email marketing. Sales prospecting typically relies on more traditional outreach methods such as cold calls, cold emails and in-person meetings.


  1. Lead generation tends to be the responsibility of marketing teams, while the sales team typically drives sales prospecting. However, there are some cases where lead generation and sales prospecting can be combined to create a more seamless process that benefits both teams.

How to use AI to integrate lead generation and sales prospecting

With the help of platforms like Rev, it’s possible to integrate lead generation and sales prospecting, consistently engaging the type of high-quality leads and prospects most likely to convert into customers.

Rev’s Sale Development Platform uses AI technology to help businesses identify the companies that display similar exegraphics to your best customers and, therefore, are likely to be interested in your product or service.

With this information, your marketing teams can improve their lead generation efforts by better understanding what type of content will resonate best with your target market. Similarly, your sales teams can use this information to know which prospects to prioritize when prospecting and tailor their outreach to speak directly to each prospect’s unique pain points.

Want to see how exegraphics can help your company generate more revenue? Contact us, and we’ll conduct a free ICP audit and give you a free target account list, so you know exactly who to target to generate quality leads and succeed with sales prospecting.